Clean House in the Republican Leadership in Talbot County by David Montgomery

Laura Price has earned the position of President of the Talbot County Council, and the Republican Central Committee must clean house after its shameful behavior in the election. I write this as a firm believer in Republican principles who is concerned about the future of our party in Talbot County. The Central Committee and leading Republicans disgraced themselves during the election, and the top two vote-getters in the election were candidates they opposed. They must make amends if voters of Talbot County are to regain any respect for the local Republican Party leadership.

The Republican Central Committee and its proxies made what should have been a nonpartisan election into a test of party loyalty AND LOST. With this kind of disaster on a local level, cleaning house is the order of the day. Those members of the Central Committee who led the underhanded and unsuccessful attacks on the Coalition and Ms. Price should resign or be removed. That is not only what they deserve, it is something they should do for the good of the party.

The other Republican members of the County Council now have a duty: to elect Laura Price to be Council President and restore a unified party. Her election demonstrates voters’ opposition to policies those other Republicans have supported as well as the failure of their tactics. Messrs. Callahan, Divilio and Pack should immediately renounce any intention of continuing to push measures through with a 3 – 2 majority as was done under ex-President Williams. If nothing changes, I and many others predict that this will be the last “Republican” majority on the County Council for a long time.

A little background: the 2018 election for the County Council produced bitter divisions among Republicans. A bipartisan coalition of neighborhood, environmental, and other organizations mounted what was essentially a recall campaign against the President of the Council, Ms. Jennifer Williams. They produced a lengthy dossier of actions taken under her leadership that weakened noise ordinances, encouraged short-term rentals and subverted both the legally required planning process and the will of the people.

The initial thrust of the bipartisan coalition was to remove all three of the Council members who supported these actions – Williams, Pack and Callahan – but it later and later focused entirely on Council President Williams.

From the first hint of such opposition, Councilwoman Laura Price, a longtime Republican, was made a scapegoat, even though she had nothing to do with the formation or conduct of the “recall” campaign. The attacks on Ms. Price included dirty tricks, character assassination, false claims about her behavior, and letters to the editor under false names. Council President Williams and Connie Sheer, a member of the Republican Central Committee, hid behind vicious and personal attacks on Price written by their husbands. The Republican Central Committee unfairly and inaccurately condemned Price as “disloyal” and made the preposterous claim that opposition to one candidate “makes a mockery out of our local political process.”

It is hard to criticize Democrats for their treatment of Justice Kavanaugh when Republicans treat one of our own in the same way.

The voters ignored the attacks on Price and the position of the Republican Central Committee. The outcome was that Ms. Price came in first, a Democrat Pete Lesher came in second, then Chuck Callahan and Corey Pack. Republican Frank Divilio, who had linked himself to Williams, fell in the standings and barely beat out Democrat Keasha Haythe for the last seat. Jennifer Williams moved down from third in the primary to eighth out of ten in the general election, and Pete Lesher moved up from eighth to second.

No personal attacks on Ms. Williams were made by the Coalition, in stark contrast to the behavior of her supporters and the Republican Central Committee. The Coalition’s signs and advertisements pointed voters to the documentary evidence of how actions taken under her leadership would harm the quality of life in Talbot County.

As I mentioned in my column reflecting on the election, Talbot County voters showed that they do respond to facts and care about County more than party. Where Andy Harris, Johnny Mautz, Addie Eckardt, and Larry Hogan won with huge majorities, the candidate for County Council pushed by the Republican leadership went down in flames.

It is clear that the strategy of the Republican Central Committee to attack one of its own candidates and politicize the election failed, and spectacularly. But the threat posed by the previous majority to the quality of life in Talbot County has not entirely passed.

At its meeting on December 3, the County Council will elect a new President. Ms. Williams and Mr. Pack passed the position back and forth between themselves, excluding Ms. Price. Although two members of Ms. Williams’ majority, Pack and Callahan, were re-elected along with her protégé Divilio, there is now no valid excuse for passing over Ms. Price again. She had the most votes, and except for Mr. Pack has the most seniority in the Council.

The Council will also pick new members for the Planning Commission and the Short Term Rental Board.

Whether Divilio, Pack and Callahan will try to continue the damaging course on which they were led by the defeated Council President will be revealed by their choices in electing the Council President and filling those Planning Commission vacancies. Electing Laura Price to be Council President and filling the Planning Commission and STR Board with members who want to preserve the character and quality of life in Talbot County will show that they got the message. Any other action will constitute defiance of the clear preference of the voters with consequences for the local Republican Party in general and the local Republican Central Committee in particular.

It is my hope, and the hope of many other Republicans, that at least one of the other three Republicans will realize that not only their political future but the good of the County and the future of the Republican Party in Talbot County depend on their making choices consistent with the obvious will of the voters who “recalled” Ms. Williams and elected Mr. Lesher. They have no mandate to continue the disruptive policies they voted for under President Williams’ leadership – she was thrown out.

If Messrs. Callahan, Divilio and Pack decide to hunker down to push decisions through by a 3 – 2 vote and are supported in these actions by the Republican Central Committee, I predict that this will be their last term on the Council. Such perverse failure to perceive the policy preferences of the majority of voters is also likely to harm statewide and national candidates in the County, as it changes the entire Republican brand into one of old-fashioned machine politics.

The next Congressional election is likely to be much tighter than the last. Recent Court decisions require a re-do of the gerrymandering that made the 1st District a safe Republican seat and the 6th a safe Democrat seat, in order to create two competitive districts. The last thing Andy Harris needs is a fractured and disgraced Republican party in Talbot County. Thus I hope that our elected representatives Johnny Mautz, Addie Eckardt, and Andy Harris will also let the Central Committee know of their displeasure and push for visible change.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Three Letters to the Editor: Laura Price Should be County Council President

Examining the results of the recent Talbot County Council election,  I was delighted to see that Laura Price was decisively reelected. She deserves a seat for her committed, diligent and hard work on the Council for the last eight years and the voters recognized that.   Unfortunately during her eight years, she was not elected to serve as president, probably because she was frequently a part of a minority on the board with respect to some important but contentious issues.  The voters have indicated their approval of her work and its time the Council gave her a turn as president.

Marcia Fidis
Talbot County


I voted for Laura Price for Talbot County Council. I did so because I studied all the candidates and found her to be principled, knowledgeable of County issues, capable of major financial responsibilities and supports the issues that I deem most important.

After the election, the voting history of past County Council elections to President and Vice President were recovered:

011 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2012 – Corey Pack / Andy Hollis
2013 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2014 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2015 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2016 – Corey Pack / Jennifer Williams
2017 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack
2018 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack

It appears that Ms. Price was denied a higher leadership role during eight years in office.

Whether this was unintentional or if purposely blocked by others on the Council, it is time to allow her the right to lead as President of Talbot County Council. Her past experiences and record of accomplishments, as well as her lead in the number votes she received in the election make this the obvious choice.

Please vote for Laura.

Abby Lewis


Let’s be fair.

Laura Price has served on the Talbot County Council diligently and effectively for eight years, but has not had a turn to be president.  It is her turn now and the Council members should elect her as president when this decision is made on December 3.

Jane Bollman




A Tale of Two Cities by George Merrill

This is a tale of two cities: Baltimore, Maryland and Seoul, South Korea. It’s a story I tell in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

The story involves two young girls from places worlds apart. Nell is six – she was born and lives in Baltimore. Chloe, is nineteen and lives in Vermont. She was born in South Korea. Nell and Chloe don’t know each other. Chloe’s mom told me Chloe’s story. Nell’s grandma told me Nell’s.

One day her mom went with Nell, her baby brother and some friends to the Baltimore Aquarium. It was cold and rainy. An outing with young children was just the thing for the day. They spent the morning at the Aquarium and decided to stay around the Inner Harbor long enough to have lunch. They chose a place along Pratt Street. In the restaurant, they were seated next to a large floor to ceiling window where they could watch the bustling crowds outside walking by in the rain. Nell is, gregarious, a people watcher and contemplative.

Just outside the window a man sat in his wheel chair in the rain. He had a sign indicating that he needed help. People kept passing him by, no one giving him so much as a glance.

Nell became fascinated with the man in the wheel chair and she watched him intently. She soon asked her mom: “Why does everyone walk by like they don’t even see him?” Mom tried her best to answer Nell’s question. She described how there were people who had nowhere to live, no job and didn’t have a mother or father or anyone to look after them.

Nell was surprised that he had no parents. That was an unthinkable thought.

Soon Nell was asking a lot of questions, one of which she reiterated several times: “Why is it that when all the people pass by they don’t see him.” That seemed to trouble her more than anything, even more than the man sitting outside in the cold and rain. Mom explained to Nell that he might be needing money or food since homeless people often had no resources of their own. He was sitting there with his sign hoping someone would come to help him.

It’s a frightening thing to consider that we can be invisible to others.

Nell said, “I can give him some of my food.”

“Don’t open the bottle of water on the table,” she urged mom while she gathered some food from her plate and found another plate to put food on. They all went out together to give the man food and water. At first Nell was intimidated by how worn and unkempt he appeared. She hesitated for a moment. Nell then offered him the plate of food and the water. He, too, appeared uncertain, but after a moment took it.

Then he looked directly at Nell and said, “Thank you,” and turning his head to her baby brother, said, “Hi there’ big fella.” Nell looked directly at the man.

Mom, Nell and baby brother then went on their way. Nell’s attention wandered somewhere thinking the thoughts that children entertain.

Some years ago, far from Baltimore, Chloe’s adoptive parents took her and her younger sister back to South Korea in search of their roots. Her adoptive mom describes Chloe as ‘comfortable in her own skin, content with herself.’ She’s confident. As a small child, she exhibited a compassionate disposition, eagerly volunteering in her community to read for disenfranchised children and assisting in health services for the homeless. Chloe is a feeder. Once she hoped to be a nurse.

The family stayed at an upscale hotel in Seoul and for the first week toured the city. Like Baltimore, the city bustles. The whole family was struck by the apparent affluence of the city. The hotel was located directly above the subway. On their first subway trip, Chloe saw the shadow side of the apparently opulent Seoul. Homeless and disenfranchised men and women sat along the walls of the station platforms, begging. Chloe, not unfamiliar with homelessness, was troubled to see it in Seoul’s subway. Perhaps she wished for a more compassionate world in her own native land? I don’t know.

“Why are they there?” she’d ask. “Is there anyone who cares enough to look after them?” The experience rocked her. Neither Nell in Baltimore nor Chloe in Seoul could understand how what they were seeing could happen. Inequality is a timeless and troubling matter. In various forms, it appears worldwide.

Chloe quickly mobilized. The classy hotel they stayed in had health and beauty packets in the bathrooms which contained generous amounts of personal toiletry items. Chloe began collecting them. On her trips to the subway station she would issue them to the needy recipients, bowing to each respectfully in the manner Koreans offer their salutations.

A food court at the hotel offered quality Korean food. Chloe soon concluded that these subway residents needed good cooked meals more than a beautician. With her parents help, Chloe bought takeout food to bring to her new charges. Again, in her trips she delivered the food ceremoniously, bowing in salutation and being bowed to in greeting. They saw each other, the way Nell and the man in the wheel chair had. Neither remained invisible to the other.

Offering hospitality to the stranger is perhaps the most ancient of all the world’s social customs. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” ancient scripture exhorts us.

Do you suppose that when we entertain the stranger, we flip the ancient equation; that by entertaining the stranger, we become the angels?

Wishing you every blessing for Thanksgiving.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Letter to Editor: County Council Needs to Elect Laura Price to be Its President

The new Talbot County Council will be seated on December 3, 2018. One of their first tasks will be to choose a new President. It is Laura Price’s turn to lead the Council. She’s earned it. She has served for 8 years. She received the most votes of all 10 candidates: both Republicans and Democrats. She has the most knowledge and understanding of the budget and all financial issues before the Council. She listens to all residents, does her research, attends community events, and has fought to protect our way of life, the rural character of our Villages and farms, and supports appropriate growth and development when and where needed. Laura Price has been the Vice President twice but was passed over by the three Council Members who wanted to exclude her from having a leadership role because she is an independent thinker, does her homework, and works to represent all her constituents.

The following chart that depicts the Council Presidents and Vice Presidents since 2011, shows how unfairly she has been treated by the other Council Members.

2011 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2012 – Corey Pack / Andy Hollis
2013 – Dirck Bartlett / Corey Pack
2014 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2015 – Corey Pack / Laura Price
2016 – Corey Pack / Jennifer Williams
2017 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack
2018 – Jennifer Williams / Corey Pack

The new Council needs to listen to the majority of us who voted for Laura and elect her President of the County Council.

Julie Susman
Royal Oak

Plus Ça Change…by Jamie Kirkpatrick

One hundred years ago, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the heavy guns of the American Expeditionary Force in France fired one last salvo and finally fell silent. World War One, the Great War, the War to End All Wars, was finally over. Europe lay in ruins. Twenty million soldiers and civilians (actually more civilians than soldiers) had been killed; another twenty-one million souls were shattered in body or in spirit.

The Armistice that signaled the end of hostilities between the Allies and Germany was actually signed in the private railway car of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander, in Compiègne, France about five hours earlier on the morning of November 11, 1918. The war had raged across Europe for more than four bloody years—ghastly trench warfare that saw wave after wave of men impaled on barbed wire or cut down by bullets or suffocated by deadly poison gas. As horrific as the actual slaughter was, the final instrument of peace—the Treaty of Versailles—would set in motion another and even greater world war within twenty years.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 and ratified by the League of Nations on October 21, nearly a year after the Armistice was signed. It was never intended to heal Europe, only to humiliate and punish Germany. Article 231 of the treaty—the ‘War Guilt’ clause—required Germany to not only accept responsibility for the war but also required Germany to disarm, to make large territorial concessions, and to pay substantial reparations to the Allied countries. At today’s values, those reparations would exceed $440 billion; John Maynard Keyes, a British economist who attended the Paris Peace Conference, predicted the terms of treaty were far too harsh—he called it a “Carthaginian Peace”—and that the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive. Marshall Foch disagreed; he thought the treaty too lenient.

In September, 1919, a month before the Treaty of Versailles was ratified by the League of Nations, a young Austrian named Adolph Hitler, a veteran of the Great War, joined the National Socialist German Workers Party, commonly known as the Nazi party. Rooted in opposition to the Weimar Republic (Germany’s post-war government) and the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler and the Nazis advocated extreme German nationalism, as well as virulent anti-Semitism. By January, 1933, Hitler had risen through the party ranks to become Chancellor of Germany and began to exercise dictatorial power with little or no constitutional objection. He didn’t hesitate to use violence to advance his political agenda and used deceptiveness and cunning to convert the Nazi party’s rabid base and non-majority status into effective political power.

In the same month that Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Thomas Wolff wrote in the Frankfurt Zeitung that “it is a hopeless misjudgment to think that one could force a dictatorial regime upon the German nation. The diversity of the German people calls for democracy.” Only a month later, Sir Horace Rumblod, Britain’s ambassador in Berlin, cabled Whitehall to say that “Hitler may be no statesman but he is an uncommonly clever and audacious demagogue and fully alive to every popular instinct.” Within a year, Hitler himself was quoted by a British journalist saying, “At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense, I tell you that the National Socialist movement will go on for 1,000 years! … Don’t forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!”

On June 22, 1940, France surrendered to Germany, just six weeks after Germany’s blitzkrieg invasion of the low countries. The French army was disbanded and France agreed to bear the cost of the German invasion. The instrument of French surrender was signed in Compièigne, France at the exact location and in the same railway car used by Marshall Foch on November 11, 1918.

…Plus c’est la meme chose.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is

Reflections on the Buy and Sell Side of Politics by Al Sikes

Politics past, and especially the recent past, recall the overriding law of the jungle—eat or be eaten. Predators prevail.

C.S. Lewis, in Chronicles of Narnia, wrote his youthful protagonists into the jungle where they encountered many perils along with the lion, Aslan. While Aslan’s appearance was ferocious, his temperament was graceful. He led them beyond their indiscretions.

The world’s greatest leaders were, when needed, ferocious but all had at least a modicum of grace. I recall quickly: Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Anwar Sadat. Apologies for leaving out your preferred example for I suspect each of us has a list; that is a good thing. We always need to hold on to what might be.

President Trump decided to make Tuesday’s election about himself. He is incapable of doing otherwise. His exploits are always the “best ever.” He subtracts humanity, and as he belittles, he makes himself small. Fortunately in America, every two years we get to vote.

Tuesday proved once again that small is not enduring. To be somewhat more precise, Trump’s stance caused an increasingly widening gap in the female vote as many women who might be predisposed to conservative approaches disdain him or for that matter a Party in his image. Thank you for reminding us that ferocity without at least a touch of grace is not enough. If Trump remains graceless, he will lose.

Talbot and Kent Counties

In both Talbot and Kent counties, Governor Larry Hogan won overwhelmingly; he topped out in Talbot with 77.9% of the vote. At the same time Jesse Colvin, running for Congress as a Democrat, won both counties. In Talbot alone, Congressman Andy Harris received 5,134 votes less than Hogan. Unsolicited advice to Harris: the next insurrection, which might occur in your Party, could be politically fatal.

It is also apparent in Talbot County that there is a sizeable swing vote that pivots on smart growth. Republican Laura Price and Democrat Peter Lesher finished one and two in the balloting and the face of less restrained growth, Jennifer Williams, lost, polling 1,670 votes fewer than Price.

Split Congress

There was a time when I thought a split Congress was a bad thing. No longer. Most politicians seem incapable of “working across the partisan aisle” unless forced to do so. I am still not sanguine as most elected officials seem to have no higher purpose than to be reelected. Only when voters begin to reward authentic efforts at bi-partisanship, on intractable issues, will members of Congress come around. We have some intractable issues; why not start with a timely budget that takes a chunk out of the projected trillion dollar annual deficits.

Jesse Colvin

Jesse Colvin prevailed in Talbot and Kent Counties in part because he understands honor. He served his nation as an Army Ranger and now has served his nation in maintaining an honorable campaign, even after President Trump took him on in a robocall. Jesse is poised to be a generational leader, and I look forward to following what I know will be a success.

Kudos to the Much Maligned Media

The Talbot Spy and Chestertown Spy publications gave voters an intimate view of each candidate. Kudos to Dave Wheelan for letting each candidate turn to video to make his or her case.
And to the Star Democrat, thank you for investigative reporting on what turned out to be a heated and at times quite deceptive campaign for the Talbot County Council.
Democracy’s linchpin is the news media and when their job is well done the Republic is much stronger.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Out and About (Sort of): Praying for Vets by Howard Freedlander

Letter (not email) to God:

Dear Lord, I pray you will consider the following requests, realizing that millions come your way daily, making it difficult to prioritize, but today is particularly special (you’ve probably heard that before) and meaningful:

I pray you will enable our veterans and their families to feel proud and appreciated for their service, oftentimes performed during dangerous foreign combat and the war on terror.

I pray you will comfort those suffering from the loss of their buddies and dealing every day with nightmares, cold sweats, guilt and chronic emotional stress.

I pray you will imbue families and friends with patience and understanding as they live with husbands, wives and children suffering from the physical and mental ravages and scars of war and acts of terrorism.

I pray you will give hope and solace to veterans coping with homelessness and estrangement from their families and friends.

I pray—and this well might be impossible—that you inspire common sense, compromise and compassion among nations and diverse civilizations—and their leaders—to preclude mortal conflict and the resulting veterans who have survived it.

In other words, Dear Lord, I pray for peace, repeating an entreaty that you have heard incessantly, and I must and do understand you can only do so much to alter the quarrelsome nature of the human condition. Though you must become frustrated with the frequent calls for peace and nearly impossible odds to achieve it, I humbly submit my sincere, well-intended request. I pray you won’t dismiss it as futile.

I pray, as I noted previously, that you will suffuse not just American but all leaders, wherever they rule/govern, with the ability to seek and embrace the proverbial “common ground” and assign the possibility of conflict to a list of undesirable, unhealthy options.

I pray, Dear Lord, that as the world approaches the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons, that you accept prayers for peace with simultaneous courses of grace-filled action to propagate harmonious relationships. Not just during this festive, open-hearted season, but throughout the year.

Dear Lord, please excuse my digressing and turning my attention away from our treasured veterans, as I pray that they rightly receive the spotlight, praise and comfort they so richly deserve.

I pray that the veterans will accept the public’s gratitude, though I know that it’s tough to acknowledge thankfulness from folks earnest but often uninformed about the challenges of serving our nation both in peacetime and wartime.

I pray that our nation pauses to think about our veterans and their families and understands that service to our nation not only is life-threatening but demanding in terms of constant discipline and teamwork, in many ways so different from civilian work.

Finally, dear Lord, I pray that you will continue to watch over and guide us flawed human beings to live peacefully and tolerantly and view grace and generosity as virtues that are never-ending and well worth nurturing.

Just one more prayerful request, Dear Lord: never allow us to ignore that peace and compassion matter far more than war and hatred, that love and understanding contribute to a better world.

I pray that we are wise enough to exclaim your goodness and watchfulness.

Thank you, Dear Lord.


Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Think On These Things by George Merrill

When a cherished place from my past – where I’d once felt loved and in tune with the world is violated, I feel diminished. In the ‘Talbot Spy’ recently, columnist Jamie Kirkpatrick’s moving essay Then and Now, reflects on his boyhood in Pittsburgh, where the recent Tree of Life Synagogue shootings took place.

“I knew nothing but peace and safety in that neighborhood, but that was then. This is now,” Jamie writes.

In this bittersweet comment, I imagine Jamie is attempting, as I would, to make some kind of sense of two disparate images; one, of a lovely place of family and childhood, the other, that same place but now violated by hate and anger. The violation of a special place diminishes the solace the memory of it offers.

I’ve been reading an essay by the famous anthropologist Loren Eisley. In an allegory about a sense of place and the role our memory can play in it, Loren Eisley describes a changing landscape in Philadelphia in the thirties.

The old elevated railway station in Philadelphia was a large waiting area containing vending machines. As soon as pigeons heard the trains approaching, they would alight in large droves to feed on peanuts that commuters left scattered on the station floor.

The El was slated for demolition to build a subway. When the tunnels were dug the El was totally dismantled and where the pigeons had always gone for their sustenance was gone.

Eisley began seeing some pigeons returning to their old haunts. What brought them back was the noise, not of approaching trains anymore, but of the wreckers, a sound inciting their hopes that they could return there to be fed as they had always been before.

Even when the structure was fully gone, Eisley writes, “It was plain . . . that they (pigeons) maintained a memory of an insubstantial structure now composed of air and time.” Although that special place for them had been violated, the pigeons never quite surrendered the memory of the place that had nurtured them.

The recollections of my past can produce incongruent images. The images contrast between the way it was and the way it is, now. There can be pain, grief, and a sense of personal violation in such recollections. I often feel it as I recall the open spaces of my childhood now suffocated by tract housing and overdevelopment. The dissonance resulting mitigates the melancholy sweetness of nostalgia. In the courts of memory, there are many sacred places. When those sacred places are profaned, I’ve lost something.

The word sacred is not a user-friendly in today’s world. Consumerists have coopted most of the language of traditional piety to make sales pitches, but not even the most tasteless marketer offers his wares as ‘holy.’ A Subaru may be pitched as ‘love’ but never as ‘holy.’ Outside of places of worship, you rarely hear the word. It’s a hollow world where nothing is sacred,

“Draw not near here: put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.” And so, God speaks to Moses reminding him of both the place and the special encounter he is to have. Moses is asked to acknowledge this holy place and its awe-filled moment by making a traditional gesture of veneration. He removes his sandals to respect the household into which one enters. It reminds me of how I once watched a funeral a procession pass through an old southern town. People stood roadside and watched, as men removed their hats honoring the solemnity of the moment and the suffering of the mourners. They had an idea of the holy.

The recent shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue is another instance of how far we have come from grasping any significance of the holy and the place it holds in our lives.

There were generations of people in The Tree of Life synagogue community who had gone through life’s rites of passages – rites that were thousands of years old. It was sacred space, a holy place where it’s members were invited to “remember” G-d, Moses, Jacob, Isaac and David in their worship. Girls grew into women and boys into men with the validation of, and within the safety of, a loving community.

The word ‘profane’, like the word, ‘holy,’ has dropped out of the modern vocabulary. I note that “to profane,” means to treat what’s sacred with irreverence and disrespect. It means literally to desecrate, to violate and to defile, and I have no doubt that our present trend is profaning our two most sacred trusts: each other, and the environment.

A sacred space can be literal or figurative. There are sacred spaces, and holy ways of being. Those spaces may be comprised of nothing more than benevolent sensibilities, kind and generous ways of being with self, with others, and with the environment. I didn’t mention ‘with God’ only because if you are kind to yourself, gentle with others, and respectful of the environment, having touched all these bases, you’re sure to be right with God.

The royal route for entering sacred spaces is to become aware, conscious of what is. One of the popular means of that search begins with smelling the flowers. Flowers are almost universally present.

When I commuted to Washington years ago, I’d take New York Avenue. In the windows of the stately old row houses that had fallen into disrepair and were inhabited by poor and disenfranchised people. I’d be surprised to see so many window flower boxes, obviously tended and glorifying as much as they could this, the desperate landscape. The flowers invoked the holy in the lives of those whose lives were being profaned.

We see flowers everywhere. They adorn almost every social occasion, whether a dinner party or a wake; they offer grace and beauty to our rites of passage, from celebration to mourning, and they keep us mindful of the one inscrutable mystery of life that ensures our future: the magical business of the birds and the bees.

I cannot think of one flower that is not beautiful. Ever watch a child pick a dandelion and ceremoniously present to you as a present? This is a sacred moment. The combined beauty of the simple dandelion and the child’s expression of anticipation is exquisite beyond words.

Where there is hate there is evil and suffering. Where there is holiness, there is beauty and healing. Where there is truth there is beauty, holiness and healing.

The present social atmosphere has grown toxic with brutal words and vengeful deeds. It’s not easy to remain focused on what ennobles us and affirms life. St. Paul had an idea about that. He put it this way and I believe it still holds:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

What we think about will direct how we act.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Personal Essay: Driving Me Crazy on the Eastern Shore by Angela Rieck

Every region has its own driving pattern, and I suppose that you can learn a lot about an area by observing it. I spent most of my driving years being schooled on the New Jersey driving rules and I have to admit that I like their style.

In NJ, it is all about time, therefore any driving that hinders one’s ability to get expediently from Point A to Point B is perceived as rude. The speed limit is considered a minimum threshold and on a 3-lane expressway, the unwritten rule is that the right lane is reserved for those who observe the speed limit (or 5 miles above). The middle lane is intended for those who drive about 10 miles over the speed limit and the left lane is designated for passing or those brave souls who ignore the speed limit entirely. Drivers who don’t respect those rules will hear blaring horns and receive “the look.” NJ driving values fit well into my view of things, but the Eastern Shore, well that is a different story.

On the Eastern Shore, independence, not time, is paramount. The philosophy is that “no one is going to tell me what to do” and that no one should be in a hurry. Here the speed limit seems to be merely aspirational. Since most roads on the Eastern Shore are single lane, I find myself at the mercy of this local perspective. It is inevitable that I will be behind a large, thundering pickup truck whose speed will vary randomly a few mph above or 10-15 mph below the speed limit throughout its journey. If I am not directly behind this driver, I will be part of a long line that is. Attempts to pass are only for the bold, as I have witnessed some of these drivers aggressively speed up when someone attempts to pass them.

Even if I am lucky enough to be alone on the road, I can expect someone to suddenly pull into my lane, requiring me to brake dramatically and then the driver will commence to crawl along, well below the speed limit. I have also observed that there appears to be some mysterious vortex that renders turn signals of Eastern Shore vehicles inoperable. It makes anticipating a driver’s next move quite challenging. A sudden stop in the middle of the road could be a left turn, a right turn or a desire to rest or even text.

Within a few months of moving here, I realized that I would not be able to hold onto my tenuous sanity and continue driving, so I purchased a car that has variable cruise control. This cruise control allows me to set my speed (in my case, a couple of mph above the speed limit, because I can dream!) and it adjusts to the driver ahead of me, so I don’t have to try to anticipate his or her variable moods.

The Eastern Shore is stunningly beautiful, there are few roads that are not punctuated with a bridge that crosses a picturesque river or creek. Woodlands and farmlands frame each road, and ospreys, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, bluebirds, barn swallows, cardinals and other birds delight me with their beautiful colors and aerial maneuvers. Sunsets and sunrises are marvels of pink, robin’s egg blue, and steel grays blended with deep red and orange hues. Simple clouds resemble thick, fluffy cotton balls, pink cotton candy, or wisps of polyester-fill strewn through the sky. It is difficult to live here without absorbing the natural beauty which softly inhabits my psyche. This is good, because I have a lot of time to soak it in while I am driving.

Angela Rieck is a former executive of a large insurance company and holds a Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland. She now lives on the Mid-Shore. 

Letter to the Editor: Orphans’ Court Candidate Thanks Volunteers

I would to thank all of those who helped in any way in the campaign. It is hard to describe what an honor it is to have someone put out a sign, talk to a friend, send a check, make calls or do any of the countless things that make it possible to campaign for a public office.  No candidate can do this alone.

While we did not succeed in winning, I believe that through your efforts more people came to understand the work of the Orphans’ Court.

I would also like to congratulate the candidates who were elected and wish them much success as they serve the people of Talbot County in this important capacity.

We came close, but that only counts in horseshoes. What does count with me is knowing that there are people who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help. That means more than I could ever say.

Philip Carey Foster